View of Finland: Thinking Culture - National Cultural Policy Issues and the Role of Cultural Heritage in Finland

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Key emerging cultural policy statements

Strategy for Cultural Policy 2020

Cultural issues laid down in the current Go- vernment Programme include the promotion of the diversity of arts and culture, rich cultu- ral heritage, cultural institutions and services, and creativity. At the core of the Government view is the fact that art and culture promote the well-being and the quality of life of citi- zens and strengthen their cultural assets. By strengthening the cultural foundations of so- ciety, developing the operating conditions of creative workers, cultural participation and cultural industries, the Government seeks the promotion of education, creativity, skills and innovation, regional prosperity, employment and growth in national economy. This is pretty standard national-level policy and has been ope


The focus on cultural issues at the national po- licy level fluctuates over time in all countries.

In Finland, we have seen the ups and downs of cultural policy and the appreciation of culture, as in other countries. This highlighting of cul- ture on a policy level is significant since the na- tional focus increases both direct and indirect financing, enhances public interest and reali- zes possibilities for the protection and fos- tering of culture in a way that will have impact far into the future.

Cultural policy work is done on many different levels, from ministries to NGOs. On the go- vernment level, there have been significant and interesting developments in Finland over the last few years, which emphasize the increased meaning and function of culture in the general well-being of citizens and the stability of the society despite the economic crunch. This work has mostly been carried out by the Mi- nistry of Education and Culture but has invol- ved other public bodies as well, starting with the Government and the Parliament.

The Ministry of Education was renamed Mi- nistry of Education and Culture in May 2010 in a welcome bid to emphasize the large part of the content of the work done in the Mi- nistry. It seems that society and the govern- ment are thinking culture on an increased le- vel, a direction we cannot but feel is long over- due and will welcome with open arms. What this in practice means to cultural heritage re- mains to be seen. There is still work to be done and issues to be pursued, but the foundations are becoming increasingly solid and will provi- de good grounds for proceeding in the future.

Pirjo Hamari

hinking Culture - Natio- nal Cultural Policy Is- sues and the Role of Cul- tural Heritage in Finland






Children’s music orchestra Ammuu!

arranged a very popular a Kalevala Day concert of traditional music at the

National Museums of Finland.

Photo by Jouni Marjamäki /National Board of Antiquities.


document, and an architecture and cultural en- vironment programme, to complement those policies that already exist.

In tandem with the policy, the Ministry has launched a new initiative and published a re- port on impact indicators for culture. The background of the initiative is the general direction on governmental level and in the ministries of promoting strategic and know- ledge-oriented governance, management by results and targeting and follow-up related to it.

Very generally speaking, this is a framework setting out indicators with the help of which the policy targets can be monitored by the Mi- nistry and their impact assessed. These indica- tors are grouped under the policy targets set out in the Strategy (strong cultural base, crea- tive workers, citizens and culture, economy and culture) and address all sectors of culture.

There are 49 indicators in all to be followed, many of which would be relevant also for single museum organizations, but of which only some are directly related to the museum sector in general. These are: number of items in museum collections; number of items ac- cessible online; exhibitions, opening hours and visitors. These indicators, along with the rest, are to be followed as time series to detect trends in changes supporting targets (Vaikut- tavuusindikaattorit kulttuuripolitiikan tieto- pohjan vahvistajina 2009).

The targets connected to these are many but here is a selection: maintaining and developing cultural services available to the citizens; secu- ring equal access to culture; strengthening cul- tural identities and diversity of content; using cultural heritage education for all to enable in- Assessing impact

divid operational for several years now, however emphasizing the fact that focus on culture at least in principle starts at a very high level.

Among the most important policy statements in the sector during the last few years is the Strategy for Cultural Policy up to 2020 prepa- red by the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2009. It is intended to steer the Ministry's action in the field over the coming years.

The policy states, among other things that:

The premise is that the significance of culture and therefore also cultural policy will continue to grow. This means that the field of operations and the forms and modes of action in cultural policy will diversify. New priorities will emerge, such as the social impact of culture alongside the economic one, the demands of sustainable development, and multiculturalism.

As a result of the demographic and technological development, the traditional cultural policy aims will have to address new challenges like accessibility of cultural services and quality assurance. Another chal- lenge is to enhance social impact in the sector, while accommodating the demands of the public economy.

Further, cooperation with operators in other sectors and in society at large will be to the fore, which will raise the profile of cultural policy in social policy more widely.

Similarly, copyright is in a crossfire of many conflicting expectations. (Strategy for Cultural Policy 2009:45).

The primary desired outcome of cultural poli- cy is a strong cultural base in society and favou- rable conditions for creative workers and pro- ducers of cultural services, actively participa- ting citizens, the promotion of well-being, and the enhancement of the economic impact of culture. As the Ministry states, these policy targets are to be specified for each sector in sector-specific programmes and action plans.

At the moment, no such policy for the muse- um sector exists, but new programmes to be prepared in the near future include a museum policy programme, as well as a copyright policy




living in an inseparably multicultural world.

According to him, culture is the spiritual sour- ce of a meaningful life. The report, submitted in early 2010, presents a vision where future national actions create the conditions for the flowering of humanism which will more and more enrich our lives (Himanen 2010).

The final policy to be mentioned in this con- nection is the cross-sector "Art and culture for well-being" programme, launched in the be- ginning of 2010. The aim of the programme is to promote well-being and health by means of art and culture and to enhance inclusion at the individual, community and societal levels. The three priority areas in it are: culture in promo- ting social inclusion, capacity building, net- working and participation in daily life and li- ving environments; art and culture as part of social welfare and health promotion; and art and culture in support of well-being and althbbbbbbbbb

dividual improvement and active citizenship;

ensuring the preservation of heritage to future generations and the protection of sustainable cultural environments; ensuring the availabili- ty of cultural heritage content on-line and se- curing its long-term storage; supporting inter- cultural dialogue; supporting the creative wel- fare society; supporting diversity and partici- pation and so on. This work is well justified and sits well with similar indicator work done elsewhere in Europe. The indicators are not yet implemented but their employment is fo- reseen in the future and the discussion about them continues.

In 2008, a committee was appointed by the Mi- nistry to draft a proposal for a report on the Futures of Culture to be submitted to Parlia- ment, as was called for by the Government Programme. In it, the future strengths of cultural policy are seen to be sustainable culture, cultural diversity and creativity. These are a precondition and a foundation for the societal impact of culture, people's well-being and the economy of the different sectors of culture. The Report was submitted by the Government to the Parliament in summer 2010 and is awaiting its endorsement. It is, like future visions tend to be, on a general level, but nevertheless includes as core strengths of future society cultural heritage and the availability of cultural content on-line.

At the same time with the Futures of Culture report, on the request of the Government, philosopher Pekka Himanen was asked to pro- duce a report about the visions for the future society, where culture is at the core of success.

Himanen sees that a rich multi-valued life is intimately connected to the grand challenge of Future visions and well- being




“Animals on Seas”

exhibition at the Maritime Museum of Finland presented seafaring animals f rom parrots to pigs and cockroaches.

Photo by Erik Tirkkonen /National Board of Antiquities.


cultural environment, putting them in the fo- refront of the well-being of individuals and communities.

These policies, although their implementation is just starting or is still to come, still highlight the growing interest on a national level in cul- ture, both as a value-carrying entity in itself as well as an instrument creating an impact on society. The trends that are detectable in the policies focus on some key elements of cul- tural heritage; in the forefront among these are

the value and impact of culture, culture as a means of well-being, accessibility of culture

and perhaps most prominently, the need to promote access to digital cultural heritage.

One of the key areas emerging from the poli- cies is the role culture is gaining in the in- formation society. Internationally speaking, Finland is a fruitful combination of infor- mation and welfare societies. Recently critical voices have been raised regarding the avai- lability of public services on-line; however, the capability of the citizens for uptake of new services is high. Increased immaterial ex- change and a profound change in the way information is produced and disseminated characterize the information and competence Culture in the information society

s p

place and abilities. Knowledge networks reach an unprecedented clientele and make it possi- ble for museums to make their collections and knowledge reserves known to a broad range of clients, including new user groups.

Cultural heritage in digital format combined with spatial information and hand-held mobile devices opens up new possibilities in heritage education, cultural tourism and event experi- ences. Interactive services facilitate a new kind of approach to quality content and present museums with the fascinating but challenging possibility of user participation, content cura- tion and inclusiveness. Digitization of muse- um objects and other materials creates em- ployment possibilities for museum professio- nals all across the country and ensures the build-up of know-how. It also encourages the creation of new public-private partnerships.

Content creation and setting up of services re- quire co-operation among museums and be- tween museums and other actors, creating new kinds of networks and business models.

If there is something highlighting the current national focus on cultural information society, it is the emerging National Digital Library in Flagshipping the focus - National Digital Library project




Finland, launched in 2008 and expected to be completed in 2011. Increased funding by the state has been channelled to this project al- ready for a number of years. It has drawn together an active core group of participants from museums, libraries and archives.

National information society policy and the Government Resolution on the Objectives of the National Information Society Policy 2007- 2011 emphasize the development of common infrastructures and services that promote the use of mainly publicly funded electronic infor- mation resources. The National Digital Libra- ry project ( ) managed by the Ministry of Education and Culture is part of this infrastructure development. The mission of the National Digital Library is to promote the accessibility of the foremost national knowledge reserves in libraries, archives and museums and their usability in information networks and to explore long-term solutions to the preservation of cultural heritage mater- ials in electronic format.

The definition of the National Digital Library owes much to the enrichment of the Euro- pean Union's policies during the past ten years.

Regarding the information society, a decade ago the European Union's activities relating to memory organizations and their materials we- re still limited to scientific libraries and digi- tization. In the European Commission's i2010 information society strategy (2005) and i2010 digital libraries initiative (2005), which further elaborates the strategy, the electronic infor- mation resources of scientific and public lib- raries, archives, audio-visual archives and mu- seums are, for the first time in the European Union's activities, at the core of the infor- mation society.

These policies have been taken further in a number of more in-depth and complemen-

tary documents by the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. Ensuring the availability and usability of born-digital and di- gitized materials in the future is a goal towards which both the Commission and the EU Member States are working. To this end, the Commission and the Member States together have committed themselves to establishing a European Digital Library, Europeana.

The goal of Finland's National Digital Library is to ensure the availability of the electronic in- formation resources of libraries, archives and museums now and in the future. The project focuses on common services, operational mo- dels and solutions. It aims at creating a com- mon public interface for the essential elec- tronic information resources of libraries, archives and museums, as well as their on-line services. The National Digital Library and the European digital library, Europeana, are co- operating closely. This collaboration ensures that the most essential materials of Finnish memory organizations will also be available on Europeana.

During this project, it has been noticed that certain national services are becoming increa- singly relevant. These include, for example, the adoption and maintenance of services related to uniform resource names (URN), the re- trieval of author information in different lan- guages (authority database), ontologies, and geographic information. The establishment and expansion of these services would also serve other electronic services considered es- sential for citizens and authorities (Karvonen 2009).

In Finland, there are currently a number of ongoing European-level funded projects, in- ct,





rary project, to ensure a seamless integration of data and a tested workflow in future transferring of content to Europeana.


Education and Culture. Annual report 2009-2010. Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture 2010:3, 32 p.

Himanen Pekka: Kukoistuksen käsikirjoitus. Nidottu: WSOY, 2010, 251 p.

Karvonen, Minna, The National Digital Library. The National Library of Finland Bulletin 2009, p. 1-2. See:

Liikanen Hanna-Liisa, Art and Culture for Well-being. Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2010, 22 p.

Strategy for Cultural Policy 2020. Publications of the Ministry of Education, Finland 2009:45, 33 p.

Vaikuttavuusindikaattorit kulttuuripolitiikan tietopohjan vahvistajina. Opetusministeriön julkaisuja 2009:57, 76 p.


is also makes thinking culture easier than ever.

Policies have brought culture to the forefront of the well-being of society, and now the time has come to put the policies into action.

Archaeological investigations bring to light every year finds from European prehistoric cultures which often transgress today’s national borders.

Eastern Comb ceramics from Neolithic Stone Age from Karpankangas, Finland.

Photo by Katja Vuoristo /National Board

of Antiquities.




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